Sunday 15 July 2018
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7 days ago

China s firefighter vice president avoids flames of U.S. trade war

CAIRO – 9 July 2018: As the flames of a trade war between China and the United States lick higher, one top Chinese leader expected to help handle relations with Washington has been conspicuous for not taking a public role in the dispute - Vice President Wang Qishan.

Known in Chinese government circles as the firefighter for his central role in tackling issues like corruption and domestic financial problems, Wang also has experience dealing with the United States - leading annual economic talks with Washington when he was a vice premier.

As a result, Wang had been tipped by foreign diplomats to take a central position in handling U.S. President Donald Trump s administration when he became vice president.

These expectations had been heightened when prior to his appointment in March, Wang had private meetings with U.S. ambassador to China Terry Branstad, and with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. He also held closed-door meetings with U.S. executives in recent months, sources in the U.S. business community say.

But aside from the occasional public meeting with U.S. visitors - the last time was in mid-May when he met U.S. business executives in Beijing - and the odd appearance elsewhere, including at a forum in Russia in late May, Wang has kept a low profile.

The week before last, for example, the only news he appeared to make was when he met Bangladesh s foreign minister and when he was appointed honorary president of the Chinese Red Cross.

For some China watchers his absence is a bad omen for the state of Sino-U.S. relations despite Trump s continued insistence that Xi is a close friend. If there was going to be a breakthrough in the trade row anytime soon then they would expect Wang to be taking a more prominent role.

Wang Qishan would be crazy to get on a plane until there were far greater assurances there is a deal to be had and the deal would stick, said Scott Kennedy, deputy director of the Freeman Chair in China St

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